Monday, 9 July 2018

2018 Varzuga season review

2018 will not go down as one of our more stellar years but finding reasons as to why that should be the case may be harder than it looks, although being fishermen, it will not stop us trying!

The ice breaking at Lower Varzuga
Every year we await news from our Russian partners about the ice break and state of the river and after the disappointing reports we endured in 2016 and 2017 (ice breaking too early followed by the ice break being massively delayed) it was with considerable relief that our advance team got to the river to find “normal” conditions a week before our first clients where set to arrive.

The first heli of the season coming into Lower Varzuga
The river was still frozen at that stage but nothing we have not seen before and with temperatures warming up it all looked good.  As it transpired, whilst we had ice coming down the river for the first day of fishing, we were into fish immediately although Lower Varzuga took longer to get going as the water was bank high and access was tricky.

Ken L with a cracker
A final score of 392 to our 11 rods at Middle set a very good benchmark for the first week of the season and with some noticeably bigger fish being landed, it looked as though we were set for a bonanza.

Jonathan B on the beginnings of Bear Island
It didn’t work out like that.  Whilst we continued to land some cracking fish, it became abundantly clear that the grilse run just was not in evidence. 

Gareth C at Middle
I was based at Lower Varzuga for its 4-week season and every day there would be something that made you think “here we go, they are here now” such as someone landing a good number in a session on our lowest beat or seeing fish suddenly appearing to fill up the home pools but every time these proved to be “false hope” events.  The initial euphoria of seeing the river in perfect ply turned into concern that, with perfect conditions, the run of fish that we would expect just hadn’t materialised.

Jamie H who never stopped smiling all week
It is easy when you are on the Kola to get a little insular and wrapped up in the daily drama of life in the middle of nowhere.  One person struggling on the river feels like a personal tragedy whilst someone suddenly reporting that they landed a hatful of fresh fish feels as if all is right with the world and nowhere could be more fun.  As is often the case, the reality is somewhere in between.

Jim A down at Beach
Our season was nowhere near as productive as we would expect or hope for.  Having said that, we still managed to record over 2,400 fish in our books over our 7 week season. 

Our very own Lynsey Mair having fun on the river
It is not for me to say what is good and what is not good fishing but I do believe that figures like that, in what we can all call a disappointing season, do point to a river that is generally extremely productive.

Rob T on Clark's
It is a magic experience to be up there and the focus on numbers of fish landed don’t really do the whole trip justice.  The helicopters, isolation, peace, fun, laughter and a feeling that the rest of the world doesn’t exist for a week is something that has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.
All of us know how lucky we are to call our time up there “work” and we hugely enjoy sharing it with our clients and understand that it is thanks to our Russian friends that it is possible at all.

Laughter is never very far away
As the rest of the world is discovering, the Russian nationals on the ground couldn’t be more hospitable and being able to see that first hand is genuinely uplifting and tends to make a mockery of what we read in the newspapers. 

People’s expectations and hopes of what their week will produce, in terms of the numbers of fish and the overall experience, varies from individual to individual but fishing in Russia is something that everyone remembers for a very long time.

The sun sets on another season
We will of course be going through our strict first right of return policy but if you would like to have more details for our 2019 season please do not hesitate to contact me.

Charlie White

Friday, 29 June 2018

Kitchen Party

Last night went just a little bit, slightly Turbo! An overcast day certainly created some action but mainly for Sean M. He landed 2 fish, one from Clark’s and one from Green Bank.
Sean M with a great fish at Clark's
To celebrate Sean decided that he would create a kitchen Party and with little resistance from anyone else he took down Gordon B with him. One thing I can be sure of is he won’t catch any fish where he is this morning!

Another for Sean M
Despite tough fishing conditions we have had a wonderful week here at middle. We have a reduced team but the team is still working hard.
Middle Camp by air
Jana, Natasha and Ura were set to painting detail yesterday. Millie and Luda have separated the over stock and Mischa has now taken the last of the extra supplies back to Varzuga.
Painting detail
It’s easy to think lightly of all these jobs but without our wonderful Russian team we would literally have no way to look after our clients. It’s a heavy debt we owe these hard working and ernest people.
The morning after
Today we have rain, the river has only dropped 2 inches and is down to 13 degrees. Let’s hope to end on a high.
Over stock
Jack Selby

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Stumped by the sun

Yesterday remained true to it’s 4am start with building heat and bright sun. Never a great mixture for fishing. The water temperature came up and the fish had sun in their eyes all day.

Paul P hard at work
The Fantastic Four seemed less than fantastic when they arrived back last night having fished very hard indeed all day. They had covered pretty well every pool they could and were very keen to double check today’s forecast still remained.
Despite a blank day Paul P and Sean M headed out into the cooler evening air and fished hard after supper. Sadly it was not to be.
Floors and doors up for repair
This morning we have cloud, a little rain, air temperatures below 20 degrees and some impressive confidence. Fingers crossed for a change of fortune.
Cabin 5 with a new shiny floor
Mischa and Ura 1 have been busy repairing the client cabins with renewed floors where needed, repairs to doors and they have rebuilt the guide team’s deck area. Previously if I leant on the balustrade it was all I could do not to go over. Now it’s a work of art.
New guide quarters deck area
Hopefully the cloud will make all the difference today and the dedication of this intrepid team will be rewarded.

Jack Selby

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Another Scorcher

Yesterday was again roasting hot. The day started with an air temperature of 18 degrees but the sun was streaming down from 4am. There was a great debate as to whether changing fishing hours might help.

Paul P with a lovely fish at Pasha's
It was decided that, as generator had been the best chance of some action, normal hours would remain and if early morning conditions were good it was best to fish generator rather than be out on the river and similarly in the evening.

Captured on the GoPro
Paul P had a nice fish from up river and a few others were lost. Paul has a vast number of GoPro cameras and has footage of almost all of the week’s fishing. As long as he keeps catching I will get Images for the blog.

Ura happily doing what he loves best
 It’s easy as a client staying on the island for a week to forget about what happens outside of that short week. Equally as a manager it’s easy to forget about what happens outside my 8 weeks here.

Winter caretaker accommodations
Of course the supplying of engine parts, kitchen equipment, drinks orders etc. play a big part of my winter but when it comes to the island it’s easy to imagine it just left to the wild.

All paths lead to the water or ice
This of course could not be further from the truth with a full time security detail provided by the village. They have a cozy little cabin, a banya and a small boat. Once the river freezes they can collect supplies from the village and receive delivery of firewood. I know a lot of people who would thrive on this kind of roll.
Miniature Banya for once
Today is again jolly hot. The river is down 2.5 inches again and the water temperature is 16. The forecast for tomorrow is showers and rain on Friday. Let’s hope that materialises early.

Jack Selby

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Casting Salmon

Yesterday the weather started off well with overcast skies and light showers. The fishing on paper was better with 4 fish landed and Gordon B landing 2 on a fly tied by previous Middle Camp client and his brother Ian B. However for these 4 fish there were less takes and lost fish.
Sean M's fish from Clarks
Clarks performed well though and 3 of the fish were taken there. Red is starting to form a bit of theme in fly choice now and I’m sure this will slowly be self fulfilling.
Paul P with one from Clarks corner
Yesterday Paul P had a good battle with a fish that was almost at the bank when everything went slack. Resigned to the loss Paul made an attempt to recast and found his fly had snagged the bottom. He made a few more powerful attempts before the snag woke up again and took off out to the deeper water once more. I feel slightly bad for telling this story but Gordon B has the whole thing on film.
Golden Eye ducks at Party
With the change of the season we have seen the bird life evolve with Barrow’s Goldeneye, Wigeon, Scoters and Mergansers arriving first as the ice broke.
Goosanders over Generator
 Soon after the Ringed Plovers, Greenshanks, Sandpipers and Ruffs appeared.
Ruffs at the top of the island
We now have a number of juvenile Goosanders, a Red Throated Diver and a White Tailed Eagle keeping us company.

This morning the sky is blue but there is a nice breeze to keep the bugs moving and the water temperature is 15 degrees. The river has dropped by 2.5 inches making certain wades much easier and longer.

Jack Selby

Monday, 25 June 2018


Thankfully this morning we have some cloud cover as yesterday was utterly scorching. The sun beat down and the wind blew. Both boats headed up river to fish opposite banks.
A fish from upriver
Paul P and Sean M fished hard in the bright conditions to lose a few and land 1. This added to Sean M’s fish first thing put him on 2 which was the total for the day. Paul R and Gordon B also reported a number of lost fish but Gordon managed to land a pike.

Whilst wading opposite Gordon B, Sean M slipped in for a dip and looking over to the far bank saw Gordon also having a swim. I never encourage swimming here let alone synchronised. Luckily the sun soon had them dry but not before the Mosquitoes had taken their fill.

Sean M on Generator
Last night everyone headed out after dinner and Gordon and I went down to Party to skate a sunray and a bomber. Sadly the only thing interested was a grayling only marginally bigger than the bomber but it was a beautiful night.
The team at Middle
In Murmansk on Saturday I was told off (indirectly) by Lucy as her mother had declared the blog to be “all about fishing”. With this in mind I am going to aim to do a section on other topics each day this week.
Meadow Crane's Bill
There are an amazing variety of wild flowers here and as the globeflower and forgetmenots go over we now have wild raspberry, violets and crane’s bill starting to come in. Sadly we won’t see what comes next or the beautiful colours of autumn that always splash the tundra with yellow, red and browns.

Jack Selby

Sunday, 24 June 2018

The Fantastic Four

Yesterday in Murmansk we said goodbye to the Pana team and the Kitza team. Both were looking a little worse for wear but not nearly as bad as I had expected. Matt, Beanie, Ollie and Lucy are all now safely back to their respective home countries (well Matt is probably in transit still) and we are the last remaining camp here at Middle. We have a reduced Russian team having said goodbye to Ivan, Vova and Sasha on the helicopter yesterday.
A lovely Kitza salmon from last week
Last week here at Middle the river continued to rise and we landed only 3 fish on Friday leaving us with a total of 48 for the week. Jon P had one from Bear… again and Gordon M had one on a 1 inch Willie Gunn. Despite tricky fishing conditions with bouts of heavy rain, howling wind and flat calm mosquito time everyone fished hard by day and played hard by night. Certainly the largest dent in our beverage stocks of the season and some hilarious jokes to claim as my own!
Kitza camp in full bloom
Pana finished up on 56 fish with a respectable 12 on the last day. Everyone seemed pretty up beat in Murmansk as they had enjoyed a really fun week with a few fish each and some great memories as ever.
Kitza grilse
Kitza ended up with 94 to 5 rods, many of which came from Paul R’s rod effort. The last day they landed 16 fish with Jose M getting 9. The Kitza team were very happy with their week’s fishing and they reported landing sea-liced fish even on the Friday. Whilst Kitza is very much a later river, on account of it being colder water from the lake, it’s nice to see the run still coming.
Final change over of 2018
We are down to 4 rods here and 4 very determined and skilled rods they are. Paul R had a fish from the pot above Bear before we arrived back to camp (especially impressive since we made it back in double quick time). Everyone set out to fish last night with Gordon B heading to Bear and Sean M and Paul P coming to Generator with me. They fished hard before supper and Sean had hold of one.

After supper Paul P and Sean M headed back out and landed 4 fish making a Saturday total of 5 to 4 rods. Paul P had 3 of them. This morning before breakfast Sean M landed one more fish so we are already doing pretty well for one afternoon and evening. This morning everyone is off up river splitting the beats left and right and allowing for the whole of the rest of the river down to the island should things be slow up top.

Despite Friday evening blowing a howling gale and nailing it down with rain the river only came up another inch and is now pretty clear. The water temperature is 16 degrees and we have blue skys and hot sun. Small flies and long leaders are this team’s special skill so I am hoping we should see a reasonable return this evening.

Jack Selby

Friday, 22 June 2018

End of an era

Last night, despite a 9 inch rise in the water here, the HMS Pizzed Up was carefully dismantled and put in position for it’s winter birth. Whilst we can still go fishing from the boats in the evening it won’t be quite the same.
Matt P with one of the two from the day
Yesterday the fishing was very slow as the river came up. Gordon M had a good size fish from Snake Pit and Jon P and Matt P had 2 each from the upper river. Whilst a rise in the river keeps us boating it does give the fish every chance to run and this reflected in our 5 fish for the day.
Caught and released
Up at Pana they had 10 fish for the day on account of sterling work from George S with 7. Matt took to the water with Guy R on the float trip and did not touch a thing showing that even seasoned professionals need a bit of luck when the fishing is tough. Over at Kitza they landed 11 fish for the day.
Jon P's second fish
The river has remained clear and is currently at 16 degrees so we are still fishing full floaters and long leaders with small doubles in size 8,10 and 12. The weather is still unpredictable with regular showers and cold winds. The most important things to have for next week are bug spray and a sense of humour. We’ve had a tremendous week for jokes and laughs despite very difficult fishing.
Matt P's second fish up river

Tomorrow we close Kitza and Pana and I am off to Murmansk to collect the last of the Middle clients. I will give a week round up on Sunday morning.

Jack Selby

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Rod Snapper

This week has involved some heavy and late nights. So it was very welcome to get a little snooze yesterday morning. Less welcome was being woken up by Phil who had snapped his second rod tip of the week. He was looking to exchange the broken tip for a new one. At this rate he may well be going through a rod per fish.
Phil not breaking a rod

After yesterday’s thunder storm and down pour the river has risen and we had a mild and over cast day. Having made the call of lunch at camp the sun came out briefly but proved that sticking to the plan works as it hammered down during lunch and everyone was thankful of a roof under which to enjoy their sausage rolls and soup.
Up River lunch team

Matt P had misjudged his capacity for white wine and took the day to recover meaning Jon P and I fished Fortress in the afternoon. All the water we fished felt perfect both in height and speed but sadly nothing showed interest in our flies.
At Pana Guy R got 1 in the tail of Lagoon, Peter P had 2, Alexander M had 1 from Ponzoi, David H landed 1 from Grannies, George S and Willie G had 1 each on the float trip. Matt also reports lots of mozzies like here.
Fish from Bear
Kitza stats were pretty amazing but the detail show’s it was a little one sided. They landed 20 yesterday. Paul R landing 13 of them: 3 at Red Cliffs, 3 from Beaver Pit  and 4 in rock pool! Francisco had 2 one from Sasha’s and one from Kitchen. Reynout K had 3 from Sasha’s, Reel and Green Glide.
Dodging rocks
This morning we have more showers and the river has risen another 3 inches. My big boat was due to be removed from the water last night but seems to have had a short reprieve. I’m glad as I’ve become quite attached to the old girl.

Jack Selby